So here we are again: it turns out that another much loved celebrity is actually a huge jerk.
This time, it’s America’s sweetheart Bill Cosby. The case against Cosby is equal parts strange and sickening. Once the most beloved sitcom dad on television, Cosby’s reputation has recently taken a hit as several rape allegations have been fired against him. The strange part is that these allegations have been public for almost thirty years, yet I didn’t find out about it until recently. Somehow, he found a really good publicist who managed to sweep all this dirt under the rug. Apparently, they didn’t do a thorough enough job cleaning.
Thanks to the power of the internet, no crime can ever be forgotten. Recently, Bill Cosby’s Twitter page asked fans to “meme” him. I am assuming that whoever runs Cosby’s social media is a 90-year-old man who lives in Palm Beach with a very loose grasp of how the internet works. Anyway, that person is probably fired now, given that people shot back with a series of memes that all referenced Cosby’s rape allegations. It was a darkly funny way to bring an important issue to light. It also reminded that despite all the anti-Semites, racists, and misogynists, internet democracy is an amazing thing and worth fighting for.
Since the memes surfaced, the Washington Post published a must-read account from a victim. A few days later, Cosby went on NPR and was given the chance to defend himself. Instead, he refused, and the reporter had to keep explaining that Cosby was shaking his head no. As you can imagine, this is not the best way to try and gain public sympathy.
First off, let’s drop the word “alleged” from now on. While Cosby has never been found guilty, there is enough evidence against him in the court of Twitter to find him guilty. That’s right: grab your torch and pitchforks! It’s time for a good old fashioned celebrity witch hunt! But actually, to discount the case against him at this point is to bring in the nasty game of victim shaming.
Now, this is especially difficult because of Cosby’s reputation. This is Cliff Huxtable we’re talking about. Thinking of him as America’s most beloved TV dad now feels downright gross. It is always difficult to separate actors from their public personas. Here, it is even tougher. This can relate to many similar dilemmas. And no, I will talk about the recent Lena Dunham controversy. I have read the passage in question, and using it to link her to child molestation is downright insane. The conservative blog that accused her of this should be ashamed. And so should I. I will now give myself 50 lashes for voting for a Republican this past election day.
It might seem a bit more fitting to compare Cosby to Woody Allen. Woody Allen was accused of molesting his stepdaughter in 1993. The case resurfaced earlier this year. Many people said they would never watch one of his movies again. It is an understandable reaction, and I thought about doing the same. Yet, I watched Stardust Memories a few weeks ago, and still enjoyed it. I just have this feeling that watching a Cosby Show rerun is going to feel weird now. This is not to say that one person committed a worse crime than the other (both are heinous), but instead to say that this shows the difference between artist and human says a lot.
Both Allen and Cosby are loosely autobiographical comedians. What we see of them onscreen is therefore very close to how they could be in real life. Yet, in reality, we know nothing, Jon Snow. Cosby, both on and off screen, has tried to be a role model. He has spoken about how important education is, and how evil swearing is. Because Cosby has painted himself to be such a saint, his past crimes seem all the worse. While Woody Allen might use his art to make fun of himself, Cosby uses his art to deify himself. It is as if his comedic integrity is now being called into question. There are a lot of artists who have done terrible things, but it is very possible that you can be forgiven if you don’t go around lecturing people all the time.